A tale of adrenaline rush, Nomadic Siddhartha on the look out in the wilderness of Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary
My long awaited journey to the tiger heartland of India was taking final shape. The process of gathering information and names of useful contacts from my fellow naturalists and birders on the best ways to explore Nagzira was so exciting, that I could not wait to be at Nagzira, to see the Jungle and its drama unfold before my senses.
I am using word “senses” instead of “eyes” as, in the Jungles, far away from urban cacophony gives one an opportunity to use all the senses. The rustles of branches and leaves, the crackle of dry leaves, makes you pause and try decipher the cause of it. Is it caused by a Jungle fowl moving behind the bushes or did a Wild boar just roll over while sleeping in a shade or was it just the wind doing as usual. The heady whiff of the blossoming Mahua flowers intermingle with the rancid stench of a rotting carcass adding further to the mystery of the Jungle. In the jungle if you sense a creature crawling besides you, you should react differently than you normally would. Most of the times it is best to avoid sudden reactions unless you can see the creature. The various edible berries and flowers have been assigned different properties, from healing to rejuvenation all as per the local lore.
With all these anticipations I boarded the train from Nagpur to Bhandara which is around an hour’s route for a fast train. Again benevolent Indian Railways was the reason behind a swift and economical journey.
I reached Bhandara station at around 1 AM in the night. Nagzira is about 40 KMs from Bhandara, so I decided to take a Nap at Bhandara railway station before leaving for Nagzira. I left for Nagzira at around 3:30 AM in night. Asking directions to reach the highway was not easy as the entire city was deserted during the night and I had to request a Police patrol vehicle to guide me to the highway.
Once on the highway I was alert for signs of any movement of Owls or other mammals crossing my way. As soon as I reached the cross road to Nagzira and took a left turn, the entire landscape changed so rapidly that I was caught unawares, and as an alert herd of spotted deer raised an alarm call after my vehicle crossing, I realized that I should keep my camera ready as during this time Jungle folks can turn up unannounced and surprise you.
The fact that there was no traffic during the night hours on these roads there was a high probability of coming across Indian nightjars sitting on the road, and I was right in my anticipation as came across a Nightjar sitting right in middle of the road.
Sighting the Nightjar is one thing, but leaving the relative safety of car at around 4:30 AM alone, in darkness of the jungle is a different scenario. Though we descend from the cave man with all the related wildness, we of the present day are essentially the children of day light. As the daylight fades and night takes away from us the sense of sight, which we are totally dependent on, we are at the mercy of our imagination.
The mind given the right settings can play strange tricks. It was with extreme caution that I had a look all around for any signs or unusual movements or even the glitter of nocturnal eyes. Satisfied at my precautions I gathered my courage and stepped out of my car. I kept the engine running and headlights on as a precaution. As I stepped out and carried out my usual surveillance rituals and being satisfied I approached the resting spot of the Nightjar. Enveloped by darkness with Night jar in focus I took a few shots quickly and jumped back into my car before my imagined fears turned into reality.